Hagel in Brussels for NATO Defense Meetings
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
BRUSSELS, Oct. 21, 2013 Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived here today for a gathering of NATO defense ministers set to start tomorrow and continue through Wednesday.
The secretary told reporters traveling with him meetings will focus on three issues: post-2014 planning for Afghanistan; preparing for next year’s NATO summit in the United Kingdom; and “some pretty intense conversation” about the role of NATO in the coming years.
The secretary noted a yet to be finalized bilateral security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan is proceeding through Afghan government channels. The agreement will pave the way for a similar NATO-Afghanistan concord, he said. “I think they’re handling this with responsible analysis, and we’re on track,” he said.
Hagel is scheduled to meet separately here with defense ministers from Germany, the Netherlands, Afghanistan, Canada, Hungary and Russia. He will also take part in North Atlantic Council sessions and a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council.
Hagel praised Russia’s cooperation on dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons. Over the last month, he said, a “very solid U.N. Security Council agreement” and the involvement of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have helped add teeth to that effort.
“For the first time we’ve really got some consensus on some really big issues,” he said.